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On rookie wage scale, league, players don’t seem to be squabbling over much

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It’s now widely accepted that the last remaining major issue to be resolved between the league and the NFLPA* relates to the rookie wage scale, a formula for paying players taken at the top of the draft far less than they’ve been otherwise making.

The two sides really aren’t all that far apart. Based on a summary of the situation that the NFLPA* recently provided to player reps, a copy of which we have obtained, three main points need to be ironed out.

First, the owners want first-round picks to be subject to a maximum of four-year contracts plus a team option for the fifth year. For the first eight players in round one, the fifth-year pay would be 150 percent of the average salary of a starter at the player’s position, with a minimum of $6 million and a maximum of $12 million. For the next eight players in round one, fifth-year salary would be 125 percent of the average starter, with a minimum of $5 million and a maximum of $10 million. For the second half of round one, pay in the fifth year would be the average salary at the player’s position, with no minimum.

The players have proposed instead as to the first 16 rookies picked a fifth-year option salary based on the average pay for the 10 highest-paid players at the position, which essentially is the same formula used for the transition tag. For the second half of round one, the players have proposed an option-year salary based on the average pay for the 20 highest-paid players at the position.

Next, the owners have proposed an overall dollar limit on rookie contracts of $840 million. This would result in no additional money for players taken in rounds two through seven above minimum salaries (and, presumably, a slotted signing bonus). The players, in contrast, have proposed a total dollar limit of $884 million, which would provide players taken in rounds two through seven a chance to negotiate salaries higher than the minimum salaries.

While the owners want to spend $44 million less per year on rookies, that’s $44 million that would go to veterans and retired players.

Finally, the league wants to impose penalties on rookies who hold out at some point during the term of their rookie contracts. The players oppose this proposal.

The players’ financial proposal would result in savings of $157 million per year, and $1.099 billion over the expected 10-year term of the new CBA.

We’re told that, on Friday, the talks bogged down over the issue of how to pay the first eight picks. Call us crazy, but it seems like the two sides are pretty close to a deal on that point.

It also seems like the league should accept the players’ offer. Why shouldn’t a player taken in the top half of the draft who has played well enough in his first four years get top-1o money at his position if the team wants to keep him for a fifth year?

Again, the owners seem to be banking on the rest of the players eventually selling out the top eight draft picks. And maybe in the end they will, especially since they’re really not fighting over all that much money.

Either way, if this is the only issue left, the two sides aren’t at the five yard line. The ball is practically kissing the plane of the end zone, and both sides simply need to find a way to avoid pulling a DeSean Jackson.